How to write a novel in 30 days – The #NaNoWriMo Challenge

Hello friends and a happy #Preptober to all of you! While the outdoor area gets grey and cold and we all hide inside under cosy blankets, with a mug of hot chocolate or a pumpkin-spiced latte most people tend to take their time to read a good book – but for writers, it´s a very special time of the year. November starts in a couple of days, which means that #NaNoWriMo is just around the corner.

If you would like to hear more about the writing challenge, want to participate yourself and turn your October into a well-prepared #preptober then get ready for my upcoming tips.

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is a worldwide write-a-thon, which happens every year in November. Thousands of writers try their best to write a 50.000-word novel in just 30 days. They start with their story on November 1st and end it (or at least reach the 50.000-word mark) by November 30th at 11:59 pm.

Why #Preptober is the key to winning!

Writing a novel in just 30 days is tough, without any preparations it´s almost impossible! I participated a couple of times in #NaNoWriMo so far but last year was the first time that I actually not only win the challenge but also have been ahead of my daily goal. The better you prepare yourself, your storyline and your characters the higher your chances to win the writing challenge. Today I share my tips with you guys to help you succeed and hopefully, you will end November with a finished first draft of your manuscript.

THE ULTIMATE NANOWRIMO GUIDE – 10 Steps to succeed the writing challenge

1. Find Your Story Idea

Get Inspiration

It all starts with the idea for your story. If you haven´t decided on your story yet, get inspired. This can be kind of everywhere like a walk while watching a movie or reading a book. Or you could scroll through Pinterest: They have a lot of inspiring pictures from places to characters or even catchy quotes. You could also type in „writing ideas“ or „writing prompts“ to get some concrete examples. Maybe you want to write about your own experiences or imagine that you would live in a totally different world and think about how that would impact you.

2. Embrace Your Story Fully

Now that you have a great story idea it`s time to get to know your idea a bit better. You might think this is a waste of time, but believe me, the better you know your own story, the easier it will be to write it.

Step 1: The Logline Of Your Story

The easiest way to make sure that you understand your own story is to write a super-short summary of it. Creating a logline means that you describe the major conflict in your story in just one sentence.

Example: Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Possible Logline: A young boy finds out he is a wizard and has to fight for his life with a Dark Lord, who murdered his parents.

     → character = young wizard boy
     → conflict = fighting against a Dark Lord
     → goal = saving his own life, revenge for his parents

Step 2: Pitch Your Story 

Prepare a little story pitch, which is a summary of your story (around 250 words). It should include more details than your logline, but not give the ending away. A pitch is used to make others interested in a story. Normally you would pitch your story to a literary agency or a publishing house, but for this process, you can practice with a friend. For writing the pitch ask yourself: What is the major conflict or your protagonist and what could the antagonist want? What is stopping your protagonist from reaching their goal? Where is the story set, at which time and most importantly: Would you be interested in reading this story?

3. Bring Your Protagonist to Life

Your whole story is set around your protagonist so before we dig deeper into your story building, it´s time to build and understand your protagonist.

Who is your protagonist?
(relationship status, home setting, work/school, pets, hobbies etc.)

What are his/her motivations / fears / dreams?

Which are the little daily and the big life goals?
And most importantly what is holding your protagonist back from reaching their dream life?

How will your protagonist change over the story?
Which new things will (s)he learn?

4. Choose Your Genre

Decide which genre will suit your book idea the best. If you only write your story for yourself, you don’t have to do this step – even though it might give you some clarity. Nevertheless, if you are planning to send your manuscript to a literary agency or a publishing house in the future, it´s helpful to think about in which genre they will put your story and who might be your future readers.

Example: I´m a writer for kids and young adult books and have an idea for a love story. With my new book idea, I have to decide before writing if the book will be for kids, teenagers or young adults. For a kids book, you would obviously use different lengths and vocabulary than for a grown-up book. But also the difference between a book for teenagers (12-16 years) and a young adult book (16-25 years) is immense. For example, young adult books often include sexy scenes and dramatic circumstances like violence. The better you know your genre and future readers, the easier it will be for you to write your story.

Genres: action, biography, fantasy, graphic novel, historical fiction, horror, detective/mystery, romance, science fiction, short stories, thriller, self-help, poetry, true crime etc. just to mention a few

There are also new genres that get created like dark romance, women´s fiction or young adult/new adult

5. Pick a Tense

When you understood your genre it will be easy for you to decide in which tense form you want to write. It´s up to you if you prefer the presence or the past tense. In case you are not sure what might suit your story the best use the past tense, it is the most common one.

6. Decide Your Point of View

Ask yourself through which eyes you want your reader to experience your story.

Step 1: The Narrator
→ one main character vs. multiple narrators

Step 2: Point of View
→ First Person: I tell the story
→ Second Person: The story is getting told to YOU
→ Third Person: A narrator tells the story about a person. Often the narrator knows more than the main character and puts the story into a bigger context

7. Build a Story Setting

Don´t underestimate how important the setting of your story is. The setting has a huge impact on your protagonist and all his actions so.

Step 1: The Place
→ real world vs. imaginary world
If you are writing a historical book or a science fiction you have to take extra time to do a world-building. But even if your story is set in your own city I recommend you to take time and really embrace your surroundings. Where in the world do you want your book setting to be? Ask yourself if the setting is really the best for your book idea and not only the easiest for you. Use Pinterest for inspiration!

Step 2: The Time
→ Decade & Season
Is your story set in the present, the past or the future? Which season is it placed in?

Example: Autumn
How does the air smell? Is your protagonist freezing or getting surprised by a rain shower? What do your characters wear, eat, drink, see..?

8. Find Your Message

This step is really one for the more advanced writers of you, but it can help you to turn your story into a brilliant one. Think about which could be a good theme or deep learning of your story. What do you want the reader to leave with, when (s)he closes the book?

Is your story about PERSONAL GROWTH or SELF-LOVE?

Does your protagonist has to be BRAVE and survive through truly hard circumstances, but never give up HOPE? Acts your protagonist SELFLESS of HEROIC?

What is the inspirational message for your reader? And more importantly, why do you want to write? This exercise will help you understand why this story must be written by you and by anyone else. It helps you discover your own motives and on uninspired days it will help you to keep on writing.

9. Summarize Your Story

Take everything that you learned about your story, the setting and your protagonist and write it down. For me this takes normally up to three pages. You don`t need to know all your story at this point, but try to decide how it will end. This will help you break it down into different acts.
Example 1: The beginning, the middle, the end (3 acts)

Example 2: The beginning, the first conflict, the middle part where the story evolves, the big conflict, the end (5 acts)

There are lots of different methods and it`s really up to you if you want to plan your full story before writing it, or if you only want to set some basic information and create the rest in the writing progress.

10. Prepare Yourself

You outlined your story, but this is just half the preparation. Now is the time to get yourself ready and motivated for your big writing moment.

→ Plan your writing time
Will you write in the mornings or after work? Schedule it in your calendar!

→ Choose A Writing Spot
Clean it up, make it a comfortable sitting area and maybe hang up some motivational quotes or a storyboard with pictures of your characters.

→ Get Support
Tell your close contacts that you will participate in the #NaNoWriMo and ask them for support. Maybe you even find a writing buddy!

→ Eliminate Distractions
Clear off your to-do-list so that you don’t have too many things going on in November

→ Plan Rewards
Plan some little rewards for your writing days. This can be a nice treat to eat, a bubble bath, a walk in the forest with a loved one – whatever makes you happy. Always plan something nice after your writing day

→ Track Your Progress
Track your progress on the NaNoWriMo website or your own excel list. Prepare it now, so that in November you can fill in each day how many words you have written. This will motivate you as you see that each day you get closer to your goal of 50k words.

→ Stop Reading

This might sound weird to you, but I also recommend you finish your current reading and don’t start with a new book in November. It’s not only a distraction it can also make you worry too much about perfectionism. Don’t compare your first draft and notes to a published novel that a bunch of people worked on for years!

→ Get in The Writing Mood
What brings you into the best writing mood is really up to you. Maybe you want to create a writing playlist, create a storyboard as I mentioned (either for your desk or on Pinterest) or start with some quick writing exercises. You could also try to write the prologue in advance and then start counting from the first chapter, when the writing contest starts. I personally feel that the first words and pages are always the hardest, so it might help you to start without the pressure.


Last but not least it is all about having fun and getting motivated to write more! I hope my tips help you in your writing progress and encourage you to challenge yourself and your writing skills. Please keep in mind that progress is more important than perfection. So even if you don’t reach the 1.667 words per day it´s still amazing when you are able to write at all. Don’t feel like a failure when you write „only“ 500 words, look at it like a success, because these are 500 more words than you would have normally written. And if you manage to write every day a little bit, you will at least end the month with a couple of chapters and lots of good ideas.

Please keep me updated on how your writing month goes. I love getting connected with other writers and especially November is such a unique month. I’m really looking forward to getting to know more of you! Please tag me on Instagram and let me know in the comments if you have ever participated in NaNoWriMo before. What is your novel about? Do you have any writing tips that could help the rest of us?

I wish you all the best for your new manuscript,

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  1. This is such a great guide to writing! I’ve only writing I’ve done is journaling, but it would be fun to attempt to try to write a novel! Good luck with yours and this challenge!

    Eileen |

  2. Liebe Tiziana,
    wow, das ist schon eine Herausforderung in nur 30 Tagen eine gute Geschichte zu schreiben. Ohne die Tipps zu beherzigen, die Du gibst, dürfte es schlicht unmöglich sein.
    Ich wünsche Dir einen schönen Sonntag.

    Viele liebe Grüße

  3. Hi Tiziana,
    ich liebe deinen Beitrag und danke dir für die tollen Tipps! Ich habe schonmal überlegt, mitzumachen, aber ich bin einfach nicht genug vorbereitet – und du stellst ja heraus, dass das wichtig ist.
    Vielleicht sollte ich den Monat nutzen, um mich mal ernsthaft damit auseinander zu setzen…jedenfalls sind deine Tipps sehr inspirierend und motivierend!!
    Liebe Grüße!

  4. Liebe Tiziana, eine bewundernswerte Leistung in dieser kurzen Zeit ein Buch zu verfassen und ich bin absolut beeindruckt von deinem Vorhaben. Ich freue mich natürlich auch, dass du uns an deinen Vorbereitungen teilhaben lässt, indem du uns die einzelnen Schritte beschreibst und ich finde es absolut interessant, etwas über deine Vorgehensweise zu erfahren: vor allem welche Punkte zu beachten sind, welche Punkte wesentlich für den Erfolg sind und in welche Form Motivation geschaffen werden kann. Vielleicht dürfen wir das Ergebnis dann ja mal lesen?
    Hab noch eine halbwegs entspannte Quarantänezeit und alles Liebe

  5. This is really ambitious and I commend you for it.
    I know that even if I tried, it would still fall back by a week to two (but that not that bad… it?…hahahahahaha).
    You’re always the best when it comes to organising and planning things out!
    I commend you for that!

    1. Oh thanks so much!! I still can improve as well and learn to organize even better, but I love feeling productive 🙂
      So far my writing goes pretty good, even though I was sick in the beginning.
      Have an amazing day my friend!

  6. Hey Tiziana, hope you’re doing good and hope you’re getting used to your new place!

    This is the first time I hear about this challenge, and I like how it sounds NaNoWriMo… thanks also for telling us the origin and the meaning of this.

    When it comes to write for me the most difficult part is to start, so I like to do quick drawers or just taking notes while I take a coffee break to don’t forget the main ideas and then I can improve the first words 🙂

    Of course I love that you always plan out everything and the most important part is to have fun, but being focus in a certain idea 🙂

    Take care!

  7. Hallo Tiziana,

    oh wow, das ist ja eine Herausforderung, die ich zeitlich niemals hinbekäme. Ich habe vor einigen Jahren tatsächlich mal angefangen, einen Roman zu schreiben, vielleicht schaffe ich es irgendwann mal, ihn fortzuführen. Momentan wäre das allerdings nichts für mich. 🙂

    Eine schöne Woche und herzliche Grüße, Tati

    1. Hallo Tati, das klingt spannend, vielleicht nutzt du ja nächsten November zum Anreiz um an deinem Werk weiterzuschreiben 🙂
      Die kalte Jahreszeit it perfekt dafür !

  8. I had no idea about this! This is so neat. I have always enjoyed writing, but have certainly never attempted to write a novel just yet. Best wishes to you for this year, friend, I know you’ll do fantastic. Plus, congrats on winning last year – that is beyond amazing!! I feel like this guide would be so helpful to anyone attempting the challenge, or even writing a novel in general.

    Make Life Marvelous

  9. 50,000 words is crazy! I think I would have to quit my job to complete this challenge – but it would definitely be a great incentive to progress the book I’ve always wanted to write! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  10. I love the idea of NaNoWriMo! Always see friends participating every year. It is pretty cool to see what they come up with as well. I love all of these different tips with being successful. The goal is to especially have fun, even if 50k words isn’t reached.

    Nancy ✨

    1. Hi Naya oh I don´t think most people publish their 30 day novel right away. Its more like a motivation helping tool. After the challenge there will still be lots of editing and rewriting so the actual book takes longer than just a month 🙂

  11. This is great advice for anyone looking for the motivation to start writing a book. For me, I’m toooootally winding down and not setting any big projects until Jan/Feb. Have a fab weekend, Xo

  12. this sounds like a really interesting challenge! good luck with your goal this year, and thank you for sharing your tips to help others prepare! 🙂

    Hope that you had a nice weekend 🙂

  13. Liebe Tiziana, wow, DAS nenne ich mal hilfreiche Tipps und wirklich sehr ausführlich beschrieben, vielen Dank für die Mühe, die du dir gemacht hast und ich drück die Daumen und bin mir sicher, es wird eine fantastische Geschichte werden, die du zaubern wirst. Ich wünsche dir eine ganz fanatische neue Woche, bleib schön gesund, alles, alles Liebe, x S.Mirli

  14. Uh, das klingt nach einer schwierigen Challenge – macht aber bestimmt Spaß! Ich habe früher so viel und gerne fiktive Stories geschrieben. Das habe ich seit Jahren nicht mehr getan und ich denke tatsächlich ab und zu darüber nach, dass mir das solchen Spaß gemacht hat und ich es gerne mal wieder tun würde. Muss ja nichts draus werden, einfach so just for fun! Danke für die Inspiration auf jeden Fall 🙂

    Ganz liebe Grüße,
    Krissi von the marquise diamond

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